Women are underrepresented in decision making roles in the Catholic Church in Australia, however, within the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle we have wonderful women influencing others and leading a number of our agencies and Catholic schools.
To celebrate the contribution of all women in our region, Aurora interviewed six inspiring women who hold leadership roles in the Diocese on what motivates them and what guidance they could offer to others.
Cath Garrett-Jones: Catholic Schools Office Family Engagement Officer
What is your role and what does it involve?
I work for the CSO as the Family Engagement Officer – promoting the partnership between parents, school communities and parishes.
I work to provide a link between the Catholic Schools Office and diocesan agencies, parents and parent organisations, supporting parent groups to ensure their relevance and effectiveness in representing parents across the diocese and coordinate the services and activities of the Federation of P&F Associations and its working parties. I also provide strategic support, policy advice and development of professional development programs for CSO staff and parent groups.
Does faith influence the way you lead in the diocese? If so, how?
Absolutely. “Our reason for being” is to be of service. We are essentially people of service who are seeking to live out and be witness to our Catholic values through the work we do. Its not always easy and I regularly need to remind myself but essentially, I try to place the “what would Jesus do” lens on my work and respond accordingly.
Why do you think it is important to have women in leadership roles?
Well, as the mother of three daughters, I hope my work inspires them and other young women to realise they are able to make a difference and contribute to their community bringing with them their unique perspectives. Many women possess strength, persistence and tenacity and an ability to be flexible- much like their male counterparts, that can be of great benefit to any organisation seeking to foster an inclusive culture. Ensuring women are in leadership roles within an organisation guarantees a diversity of role models for any young person aspiring to develop themselves professionally.
What would you say to women wanting to be leaders?
Jump in and have a go! Seek out other women (and men) who are supportive of your leadership aspirations and share your visions. Read, educate yourself, get involved and put your hand up to assist in projects that inspire you.
The theme for International Women’s Day is ‘balance for better’. What does this mean to you?
I am hopeful we are seeing a shift in culture and attitudes where we all recognise each of us has unique gifts and talents to share irrespective of gender. Ensuring women are offered a seat at the table and their perspectives are valued.
Do you have a female role model? If so, can you please share with us what about them inspires you?
This is an easy one. My mother, Kath Garrett, is the strongest, most inspirational woman I know.
Now in her mid-eighties, she has weathered some significant challenges in her life but has always demonstrated such grace and poise. Mum was one of those children pulled out of school to raise siblings and work the family farm. Despite this, mum made a life for herself – joining the defence force as a young woman and ultimately, meeting her husband – my dad. Together they raised four girls – all strong and independent. As they say, “the apple never falls far from the tree”.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I am so incredibly proud of the three girls my husband and I are raising. Two of them are adults and making their way in the world with our youngest in Year 11. They are all young women of such compassion – with a strong sense of what the right thing to do is. So many times I have listened to them speak passionately about an issue at work or school and hear in them those values my parents taught me. I’m comforted by the knowledge that we must have been effective in passing them on to them!